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Afterwards, nobody can agree on whose idea it was. Charles thinks it was probably Raven; Erik says it must have been Hank; Raven says it was Alex; Sean blames Erik, but everyone knows that's only because Erik pushed him off the satellite dish. When they point this out, Sean accuses Hank instead, but since he has his own reasons for blaming Hank as well, this is hardly conclusive.

At all events it's Raven who announces it.

“We've been having a bet about which of you would win in a fight,” she tells them.

“Telepathy versus the power to command metal,” Charles says, interested. “Well, it depends – ”

Raven interrupts the impending lecture.

“No,” she says. “A regular fight. No powers.”

Charles sighs. Every now and then he remembers why he said to Erik They're just kids.

“Really, Raven,” he says, “don't you think that's a bit childish?”

“Right,” Sean says, “so you think Erik would win?”

That is not what Charles meant at all.

“Obviously,” Erik says, sounding amused.

“Erik!” Charles protests. I expected more from you, he tells Erik silently.

“It really wouldn't be worth the trouble of demonstrating,” Erik says. “Charles might get hurt.”

I think Erik thinks Charles would win,” Raven says, her golden eyes glinting with malice.

Charles sighs again. “Come on, Raven, he's not going to fall for that old trick.”

“It would be an interesting experiment,” Hank says, bristling with enthusiasm as usual.

“In what possible way – ” Charles begins.

You know I could pin you to the mat in seconds, Erik's voice says in his head.

Oh yeah? Charles flashes back.

Of course. Erik always sounds as arrogant in Charles's mind as he does when speaking.

“All right then,” Charles says. “Since everybody is so keen. But just this once, do you understand? No angling for re-matches.”

“I wouldn't dream of it,” Erik says wryly.


The gymnasium hasn't been used much since Charles's stepfather died, but the mats are still there, and it doesn't take long to set up a suitable arena.

“You can't fight in those clothes,” Raven says, looking at Charles's cardigan and button-down shirt, his carefully pressed trousers.

“The Greeks used to wrestle naked,” Hank says helpfully. “That's where the word gymnasium comes from – ”

“Yes, thank you, Hank,” Charles says hastily. “I don't think we need to make this any more embarrassing than it already is.”

He strips to his singlet and undershorts, and Erik does the same.

“It should be the best of three falls,” Hank says. “The Greeks – ”

“Yes, fine,” Charles says. “Hank, would you mind – ”

He really doesn't want to think about the Greeks just now. Doesn't want to think about wrestling naked with Erik, their bodies shining with oil and sweat. It's going to be bad enough grappling with Erik like this, half-undressed in front of a young and excitable audience.

“Ready?” Erik says.

“Ready,” Charles says, gritting his teeth.

Erik launches himself at Charles, nearly knocking him off balance with the first impact. He's as strong as he looks – and thinking about how strong he looks is really not helping so Charles should just stop it right now.

Charles crooks his leg around Erik's, staggers as if he's going to fall, and throws Erik neatly onto the mat, pinning his arms above his head.

Erik looks so surprised and outraged that it's all Charles can do not to laugh in his face. There's an ominous creaking sound and one of Charles's stepfather's dumbbells jumps from the rack and crashes to the floor.

“We agreed, no powers,” Raven says accusingly.

“That's OK,” Charles says. “He wasn't doing it on purpose.”

Erik growls. “Always the good sport, Charles,” he says witheringly.

“Easy when you're on top,” Charles says, unwithered.

Annoying Erik is probably not a good idea, but at least it stops him thinking about how much he likes having Erik underneath him like this.

What was that you said about pinning me to the mat in seconds?

No powers, right? Erik snaps in his head.

That doesn't count, we're not fighting now, Charles tells him.

Aren't we?

Erik gives a sudden heave and flips them both so Charles is flat on his back with his wrists forced wide apart. The man's all toned muscle and hardness, pressing against Charles as if he's trying to push him through the mat. As if –

Seriously, Charles is not going to finish that thought.

“Is that one-all?” Hank asks, confused.

No,” Erik and Charles say simultaneously, scrambling to their feet.

“Heh, Charles is ahead,” Raven gloats.

Erik glares.

“Ready?” Charles says.

“Ready,” Erik says grimly.

This time it's Erik who floors Charles, knocking all the breath out of him.

“Oof,” Charles says. He tries to struggle free but Erik's grip is too strong.

Erik's breathing hard, and his pupils are dilated, and Charles is not going to think about that, really he isn't, but having Erik stretched out on top of him and pinning him down feels so good it makes him weak with pleasure.

I wish we were doing this in bed, he thinks, and feels Erik's startled response, a violent shudder going through him.

“Come on, Charles!” Raven urges. “Throw him off!”

Charles gives a twist of his shoulders and hips and gets Erik on his back again. Raven whoops in derision and the others cheer.

Erik gets up, scowling. His voice in Charles's head is furious. Cheat!

Charles shoots him a silent apology. Accident, he says in his mind. He suspects Erik doesn't believe him, though.

“That's one-all,” Hank says with satisfaction.

“Yes, thank you for that,” Erik says bitterly. The room is full of humming metal.

Erik, please –

What? Erik blazes.

It's not their fault, Charles tells him.

“Ready?” Erik says implacably.


It's hard to tell who's winning this time, even when they hit the mat. They roll over and over, grunting with effort, grappling hard –

The image is so vivid it takes what's left of his breath away: the two of them naked in bed, his legs wrapped around Erik's waist as Erik thrusts into him, strong and deep –

He can feel Erik's laughter in his head as he pins Charles to the mat again.

Now who's cheating? Charles accuses him.

You started it, Eric responds.

His face is flushed and his eyes are dark, staring intently at Charles as he holds him down.

“Two-one to Erik. Erik wins!” Hank announces, to good-natured jeers from the others.

Charles thrashes and struggles, trying to get free, till he feels Erik's body tense against his.

Stop that! Erik sounds – rattled, Charles thinks with surprise.

Get off me, then, Charles tells him.

I can't, Erik responds.

There's a moment of stillness where Charles doesn't understand, and then he does.


Do something, Charles! Erik says in his head. His erection is digging into Charles's thigh.

What did you have in mind?, Charles asks, trying not to laugh. He's more than half-hard already himself.

Anything. Erik sounds desperate.

Charles tries to come up with something, but the feel of Erik's cock pressing against him, Erik's long hard body completely covering his own, Erik's weight pushing him down into the mat, all of it, swamps his mind till there's nothing in it but this excruciating mixture of pleasure and shame.

Hank's just starting to worry – “Shouldn't you let him go now, Mr Lehnsherr?” – when the fire bucket flies across the room and crashes into the window, shattering the pane.

There's a general rush to inspect the damage, and Erik rolls off Charles, grabbing frantically at his discarded clothes. Charles lunges for his own, fumbling with buttons and cloth. He's still fighting the impulse to laugh, and he only just manages to tuck his shirt into his trousers without getting caught by a dangerously fast-moving zip.

Erik, it seems, is not amused.

Outside, Charles tells him. Now.

An argument's breaking out about the terms of the bet, and it absorbs enough of the others' attention for Erik and Charles to escape into the corridor.

“Why are you so angry?” Charles asks. “You won, after all.” He puts his hand on Erik's arm.

Erik looks at Charles's hand, and then at his face. He seems oddly uncertain. Charles gets a flash of something he can only just make out, a mixture of want and never and laughing at me.

“No,” he says, “Erik, no, I wasn't laughing at you – not about that. How could I?”

Erik's still glaring at him, but there's such an unhappiness under the anger that it makes Charles ache. He doesn't know what to do, so he does the only thing he can think of.

Kissing Erik is amazing – it's exhilarating and terrifying and he thinks he might die of it and he wants it to go on forever. Erik groans and tugs his hair, pulling him closer, and Charles pushes against him, twisting and pressing his hips against Erik's.

Want you so much, god, want you now, Charles thinks, and there's all of dinner to get through and the hours after dinner

“I can't wait that long,” Erik says with absolute conviction.

“I'll think of something,” Charles says. “I promise.”

It would be a lot easier to think of something if his brain didn't feel like marshmallow. Marshmallow that's just been dunked in a mug of hot chocolate.

Erik's stomach rumbles.

“Was I thinking that loudly?” Charles asks.

“Yes, you were,” Erik says accusingly. “Marshmallow. Really, Charles.”

They both start laughing, staggering a bit with the relief of it.

“You're a surprisingly dirty fighter,” Erik says, when he's able to speak again. His arms are tight around Charles's waist and his breath is hot against Charles's ear. “I'm shocked. Where did you learn to wrestle?”

“I'll tell you when we're in bed,” Charles says. “Show you what else I learned as well. You haven't seen my best moves yet.”

“Your pick-up lines really are terrible,” Erik groans.

“I know,” Charles says happily. “Isn't it marvellous?”